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Comparison of 5 Immunohistochemical Markers of Hepatocellular Differentiation for the Diagnosis of Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

CONTEXT: Several immunohistochemical markers are available to establish the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma. Judicious selection is essential to achieve a reliable diagnosis in limited tissue provided by liver biopsy.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the efficacy of 5 hepatocellular markers for the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma across various levels of differentiations.

DESIGN: Immunohistochemistry for hepatocyte paraffin antigen 1 (Hep Par 1), polyclonal carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), glypican-3, arginase-1, and bile salt export pump transporter was performed in 79 hepatocellular carcinomas, yielding 93 observations (13 well-differentiated [14%], 41 moderately differentiated [44%], and 39 poorly differentiated [42%] tumors).

RESULTS: Arginase-1 and Hep Par 1 had the highest sensitivity for well-differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma, whereas arginase-1 and glypican-3 had the highest sensitivity for poorly differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma. When staining of more than 50% of the tumor was considered a positive result, arginase-1 remained the most sensitive marker for all differentiations, whereas sensitivity for Hep Par 1 in poorly differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma dropped to 30% and that of glypican-3 in well-differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma was 15%. The addition of Hep Par 1 and/or polyclonal CEA to arginase-1 did not lead to an increase in sensitivity for any differentiation. The combined use of arginase-1 and glypican-3 yielded 100% sensitivity for poorly differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma.

CONCLUSION: Arginase-1 was the most sensitive marker in all differentiations of hepatocellular carcinoma. Glypican-3 had high sensitivity for poorly differentiated cases and its combined use with arginase-1 enabled identification of nearly all cases of poorly differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma. Although bile salt export pump transporter has good overall sensitivity, it has a limited role in establishing hepatocellular differentiation when added to a panel of arginase-1 with either glypican-3 or Hep Par 1.

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